Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre, review: Strut of the dancing is packed with raunchy sass

It's dynamic and good fun, but just a bit too formulaic to induce rapture

Footwear-fetishists must have have felt a tad short-changed by Here Lies Love, the Imelda Marcos disco-musical staged at the National last year. It was a great piece but it mysteriously left out any mention of the epic collection of shoes amassed by the Steel Butterfly of the Philippines.  Kinky Boots – the Cyndi Lauper/Harvey Fierstein show which won 6 Tony Awards and pipped Matilda to the post as Best Musical of 2013 – compensates for that oversight, big-time.

It's based on the likeable British movie, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, which was in turn derived from the real-life story of the ailing Northampton firm that saved itself from bankruptcy by a spangly switch from making traditional hand-stitched brogues to cornering a niche market – the creation of erotic footwear in men's sizes for cross-dressing guys who think of a boot as “two and a half feet of irresistible tubular sex”.

Well, there's no business like shoe-business.  The film invented the twist that it's Lola, a London drag queen, who struts to the rescue,  after a chance encounter with the dispirited young man who has just inherited the firm after his dad's death.

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Jerry Mitchell also worked on Legally Blonde (Johan Persson)

As you might expect from a musical with Harvey (Torch Song TrilogyCage Aux Folles) Fierstein on board, this Broadway show does not downplay the drag-queen angle. Lauper's poppy, nicely varied – if lyrically straggly – score gets off to a sweetly tuneful start but really kicks with “Sex Is In The Heel” and the Act One finale “Everybody Say Yeah” which turns into a joyous romp on the assembly line conveyor-belt that splits and reconfigures as if it has Busby Berkeley longings.

It's a nice joke that mixing with the drag artistes brings out the inner show-queen in many of the factory-workers.  Killian Donnelly is a terrific performer and he delivers his numbers with full-throttle finesse. I just find it hard to credit that the crushed spirit of this dour proprietor would start to reassert itself in so all-out American an idiom.

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Matt Henry as flamboyant, drop-dead-knowing Lola (Matt Crocket)

There's a bond between this character and Matt Henry's flamboyant, wittily drop-dead-knowing Lola who ferociously insists on red (“Tell me I haven't inspired something burgundy!... Burgundy is the colour of hot water bottles”) because they are both sadly conscious of having failed their fathers. Indeed, Henry is at his finest in the quietest and most vulnerable sequence when his voice floats beautifully through the poignant, rather Tamla Motown textures of “Not My Father's Son”.

And yet, and yet. I've long loved the work of director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell on such shows as Legally Blonde, The Full Monty and Hairspray and the thighs-have-it strut of the dancing here is packed with raunchy sass. But Kinky Boots too often feels as if it's what you'd get if you programmed a computer with those musicals (plus Cage and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and asked it to come up with a tuner about transcending prejudices and the self-help enterprise of the working-classes. It's good fun but, in my view, a bit too formulaic to induce rapture. You can't deny, though, that it brings a dynamic new dimension to the idea of dragging your heels.

To Feb 6 2016; 020 3725 7060

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